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Suspicious Package Disrupts Cannes Festival Operations

Cannes Placeholder Red Carpet
Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

The Palais des Festivals, currently housing the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, was hit by a temporary lockdown on Thursday afternoon. The building was briefly closed but has since reopened.

Police said at 3pm local time that they had found a suspicious package in a storage area at the back of the building and that they were preparing to investigate. They later clarified that it was not inside the building, but was within its official perimeter.

“This is not a bomb alert. Explosives department is currently investigating. Please clear the area in order to facilitate access,” the regional police said in a tweet.

The closure of the Palais did not cause a lengthy disruption to the gala screening of competition film “Memoria” directed by Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Shortly after 3pm, Tilda Swinton and other members of the film’s cast were seen departing from their hotel to attend the projection. It is unclear whether they were aware of the possible hiatus.

Later, Swinton colleagues were seen walking the red carpet on the steps of the palace, posing for photographers and entering the building.

In recent years, the Cannes festival has operated under a tight security cordon, due to the non-specific threat of terrorism. Exactly five years ago yesterday, in nearby Nice a terrorist drove a heavy truck into crowds and killed 86 people. In October last year, three people were killed in a knife attack in Nice. Again police suspect terrorism.

This year, anti-COVID measures have been more prominent at the festival, effectively creating a ‘cordon sanitaire’ around the outside of a ring of more traditional metal detection and bag screening gateways.

But this year again, France has invoked its “Operation Vigipirate” anti-terrorist forces. That has meant that squads of heavily-armed soldiers have been seen patrolling near the festival center and on the rue d’Antibes among the large crowds that combine festival guests and summer tourists.